Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to you on the occasion of the UPU Strategy Conference in Dubai, the major event of the year for the postal sector. I especially want to thank Mr. Edouard DAYAN for inviting me to make this speech. Mr. DAYAN and I are good friends dating back many years.
As you are aware, the UPU is one of the oldest international organization in the world. Its mission is to facilitate communication among the people of the world, notably through the provision of a quality universal postal service. Its establishment shows that quite a long time ago, people already recognized the importance of communication in their lives and the need for international cooperation in facilitating communication. Throughout its long history, the UPU has steadfastly pursued its objectives and has constantly expanded its field of activities. Today, over 660,000 postal outlets of the 191 UPU member countries constitute the largest physical distribution network in the world.
Our society has dramatically changed since the establishment of the UPU, especially during the latest two decades. Many new means of communication have emerged with the information technology revolution. Yet, communication remains more important than ever in the current wave of globalization. New wireless and internet technologies can be faster and even sometimes cheaper means than traditional postal services. They have presented particular challenges to the postal sector. However, we have noticed today that the UPU, leading the postal sector, continues to play an important role in facilitating communication and that Posts are increasingly using new technologies to move beyond their traditional postal business. As the general theme of this conference has shown, the UPU has an open vision for the future: it does not hesitate to take action to “shape the future of the postal sector”.
As the Director-General of the WTO, I have to admit that compared to the 132-year-old UPU, the WTO is still very young. Despite the gap of age, UPU and WTO share many common interests and values.
For both UPU and WTO, development is the ultimate objective. While continuing to fulfil its fundamental mandate to ensure the provision of universal postal service, during the last decade, the UPU has focused its efforts to transform the postal sector by encouraging and assisting its member countries to embrace new technologies, undertake postal reform, introduce competition, and liberalize the postal market. We understand that this transformation aims to modernize the postal sector and convert protected public postal entities into competitive and customer-oriented businesses so as to maximize the postal sector’s contribution to economic and social development. It appears to me that universal postal service can be entirely compatible with postal reform. The UPU has developed a strategy to facilitate the integration and development of the physical, electronic and financial networks at the international level and among UPU member countries. This is a critical process, in which I believe Mr. Edouard DAYAN has been instrumental and farsighted. Obviously, this strategy will optimize the use of the postal network and new electronic technologies and lower transaction costs, which is of particular importance for the economic development in developing countries. What we are pursuing in the WTO is to contribute to development through rule-based market opening and trade liberalization. As you all know, the current round of trade negotiations in the WTO, the Doha Development Agenda, aims at providing developing countries with real market opportunities and thus contributing to their economic development.
Openness is vital for both UPU and WTO. Noting more and more new players operating in the postal market, in 2004, the UPU created a permanent body, the Consultative Committee, to integrate the private sector into the organization and to take on board the ideas, interests and activities of the stakeholders in its work. This step towards greater openness, in fact, reflects a necessity for national governments and international institutions in today’s globalization where global governance cannot be effectively conducted without the involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process. Having an important role to play in global governance, the WTO, like the UPU, is open to dialogue and always ready to respond to the voice of stakeholders and the civil society.
More specifically, these two organizations are closely linked by trade. Postal services remain an important means of communication supporting trade and other economic activities. The new UPU strategy of integrating the physical, electronic and financial networks could dramatically facilitate expanding global trade. In addition, postal services constitute an important sector of trade in services. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), has established a multilateral framework of principles and rules for trade in services, which apply to postal services as well. Under the GATS, WTO Members enter into successive rounds of negotiations where they make specific commitments in market access and national treatment with a view to achieving a progressively higher level of liberalization. These commitments will provide legal certainty, predictability and transparency to trade in services, including postal services. In the current round of negotiations, WTO Members have been engaging in negotiations on postal and courier services through a request-offer process, either on a bilateral or on a plurilateral basis. Focusing on services that are provided on a competitive basis, these negotiations have addressed important issues in this sector, such as uncertainty of classification, market access and national treatment restrictions, and regulatory measures, which affect operators and consumers.
We all agree that there is a need for cooperation between UPU and WTO to ensure the coherence of their activities. In fact, such cooperation is already underway. Secretariat staff of UPU and WTO have been exchanging information on a regular basis. Recently, the UPU obtained ad hoc observer status to the Council for Trade in Services in the WTO. The UPU will be invited to meetings of the Council when an item relating to postal services is included in the agenda.
I believe that through our efforts, both UPU and WTO can make greater contribution to the wellbeing of people. I am confident that this conference will be a great success.
Thank you for your attention.
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